Reservations over reservations

If you’ve attended a movie at one of Larry H. Miller’s Megaplex Theatres lately, then you may have had the opportunity to sit in your own, special, reserved seat. That seat is yours. You picked it yourself by jabbing a finger at a dirty screen smudged by a thousand other jabbing fingers. Your ticket confirms your selection. M-20 it says. Ooo, M-20. Far enough back to get a full view of the screen, and far enough to the left so you can read the screen left to right, minimizing eye and neck strain. (Once you’ve experienced sitting on the left, you’ll never go back to center).

I like to sit where I please in a movie theater, but I prefer to nab that perfect seat the old fashioned way: showing up early. How novel. The idea behind reserved seating is a noble one, but ultimately flawed. Let’s cover the pros and cons of reserved seating.


Sit where you want, when you want. If a Megaplex Theatre offers reserved seating (not all of them do yet), a moviegoer can either purchase a reserved seat at the box office or, better yet, purchase one online, hours before the show starts. Imagine: You can sit at work, at your computer, and choose which seat you’ll be watching “300” from later that night. In theory, that seat will be waiting for you, no matter when you show up. That means you don’t have to arrive early and be forced to watch those excruciating Megaplex video slides over and over again (Super Dell may be gone, but Dan the Laptop Man still terrorizes).

No more saving entire rows unfairly. Unless you purchase a bunch of tickets at once and reserve an entire row for you and your Harry Potter-loving friends, reserved seating means no more instances of that frumpy, 30ish woman arriving early and sitting on one end of the row while her puffy pink coat stands guard at the other end of the row. Apparently, any seats between a person and his or her coat, be it three seats or 13 seats, are legally reserved for people who will inevitably arrive late, denying anyone who arrives on time those prime seats. Any attempt to wrest these seats from the 30ish woman and her puffy pink coat will result in a fight of “Jerry Springer Show” proportions. Reserved seating looks to alleviate this situation.

Sitting together. As mentioned above, reserved seating allows friends and family to sit together without rudely saving seats for latecomers.

The novelty. Boy, don’t you just feel special knowing your seat was reserved for you? Suddenly, attending a crappy movie like “Perfect Stranger” feels like a night at the opera. I attended a reserved-seating movie at Jordan Commons one night and there was actually an usher who looked at my ticket and walked me to my seat. Unnecessary, but charming.

And now the cons — which, for me, being a single guy who mostly goes to movies by himself, far outweigh the pros.

Being forced to sit next to a stranger. I like my space when I watch a movie, so my body stiffens with annoyance when a stranger, usually a real seat-filling one, reserves the seat right next to my carefully chosen seat — extra annoyance if that too-close-for-comfort stranger chows down on a chili cheese dog, wetly licking his fingers and burping under his breath. Chili-cheese-dog burps have been known to melt the skin off faces. Of course, if the theater is nearly empty, you can simply move with the confidence that you’re not taking someone else’s reserved seat. But if you move and the theater is filling up, do you really want to be the guy or girl responsible for disrupting the seating assignments of scads of people just because you don’t like Mr. Finger-licker?

Better late than never? I say never. Just because your seat is reserved doesn’t mean you should stumble in 15 minutes after the movie starts, noisily searching for your assigned seat in the dark. As snooty and precocious as this is going to sound, I like to think of a movie as a spell being cast on me, and if I’m distracted by your ass squeezing past me, the spell is broken and it takes me a moment to focus on the movie again (to recapture the magic, if I may say). Don’t let the idea of a reserved seat make you drag your feet to the theater. Chances are, if you’re late to a sold-out screening, someone has filled your seat anyway. In the immortal words of Nelson: Ha, ha.

When you say “reserved,” do you mean completely reserved? To go along with what I just said, just because your ticket says your seat should be open doesn’t mean it will be. Some people totally disregard the reserved seating and sit wherever the hell they want. In a sold-out screening, this inconveniences lots of people, because unless you’re willing to fight for the seat that’s rightfully yours, you’ll sit in a seat that is reserved for someone else, and then that person has to find another seat and so on. This doesn’t apply to sparsely populated screenings where any seat is game. Nobody’s going to fight you for his or her reserved seat if 300 others are available. (And if someone does fight you for M-20 when every other seat is open, then God help you.)

So I say do away with the reserved seating. It encourages lateness, is absolutely pointless in empty theaters and takes away our choice to move away from Chili Cheese Dog Jimmy when every other seat is assumedly reserved. If that happens to you, wait until the lights dim and then move away from Jimmy. Hey, I don’t care if the seat was reserved for someone else. That person should’ve come on time. Ha, ha.